Following months of negotiations with interested parties, skeptics and outright opponents of the South Fork Wind Farm, the project’s developers have submitted a new outline of their construction proposal that adds a number of new conditions that bow somewhat to the demands of fishermen, environmentalists and lawmakers.
The developers have agreed to a compensation plan for commercial fishermen who may suffer damaged or lost gear or lose fishing days because of some component of the wind farm’s construction and operation. They have also agreed to conduct monitoring of electromagnetic pulses from the power cable over the first five years of the wind farm’s operations and a mandated re-nourishment of the beach at Beach Lane if erosion from storms exposes the cable or significantly lessens the depth at which it is buried.
The new outline, called a “joint proposal,” also puts a finer point on the myriad details of how the construction will be conducted on land in Wainscott, with strict parameters for the timing of work, noise impacts, access to roads and beaches during construction and the extent to which the areas of work are restored at the conclusion of construction.
In the proposal, Ørsted US Offshore Wind and Eversource, which now own the project begun by Deepwater Wind, agree to some 200 conditions on the construction work that were settled on after months of closed-door discussions and negotiations with more than 80 “intervenors,” as the interested parties and opponents of the project are dubbed.
The final proposal, which has thus far earned the supporting signatures of only nine of the intervenors, was added last week to the wind farm application to the New York State Public Service Commission, which has authority to permit the power cable landing. East Hampton Town officials have said the town will not sign on to the proposal, but have proposed accepting an easement agreement with Ørsted and Eversource that reportedly would pay the town and the East Hampton Town Trustees just under $29 million over 25 years.
Eversource Vice President Ken Bowes acknowledged this week that there are certain to still be several intervenors who oppose the project, and will present their own objections to the state, but said the company sees the 10-month settlement process and the conditions on the project it produced as laying the foundation for the many much larger projects following in the South Fork Wind Farm’s wake.
“We have set the standard for all offshore wind projects in the future with this process,” Mr. Bowes said. “This was a 10-month process, dozens of meetings, more than 50 parties. There are 200 conditions and a dozen appendices that describe in detail how we are going to measure, monitor and mitigate any [impacts] from our construction.”
The fisheries mitigation plan, which fishermen have said must be a condition of any offshore wind projects, demands that the company must set up a public claims process for fishermen to seek compensation for lost gear or earnings throughout the 20 to 25 year life of the wind farm and its eventual decommissioning. There will also have to be a process by which fishermen could appeal any decision about their claims to an independent arbitrator.
The company will also measure EMF emissions from the cable once it is buried, immediately following the energizing of the cable and again after one year, three years and five years — after which it will assess whether variations in the EMF measured warrants continuing the monitoring, Mr. Bowes said on Tuesday.
The proposal also stipulates that the developers will monitor the depth of the cable below the beach at Beach Lane and under the sea floor periodically and after any major storm that causes extensive erosion — to ensure that the cable remains at least 30 feet beneath the beach and at least 6 feet beneath the surface of the seafloor.
Any loss of 5 feet or more of the dry beach will require a beach nourishment project to restore the 30-foot depth.
During construction, the companies have agreed to demand that the construction will not result in the closure of any roads or access to the ocean beach at any time.
“There will never be a time when someone can’t travel a road or access the beach,” Mr. Bowes said, adding that East Hampton Town would dictate the parameters of the restoration of the roadway and Beach Lane parking lot following the installations. “That took a lot of time and discussions, but it makes for a better project in the end. Our intention is to leave things better than we found them.”
The application process now turns to those individuals and groups who oppose the project as a whole, or object to anything in the developers’ final proposal to make their case as to why the state should demand the project be changed.
At the fore of that side is the Citizens for the Preservation of Wainscott, who have made a case for the cable landing somewhere other than Beach Lane. Details of alternatives the group and others have pitched in the settlement discussions and will presumably be submitted to the PSC in rebuttal to the joint proposal, have not been made public in the application file yet.
A spokesman for the group only offered that details of the alternative landing sights discussion will be forthcoming “soon.”